Minnesota State Meet RecapFebruary 20, 2017
The 2017 edition of the Minnesota State Meet lived up to the expectations of some exciting, competitive racing. The day started off with ideal weather and near perfect grooming -- temperatures in the 20's and firm, fast skate deck for the morning races. Patrick Acton, Eagan, went out hard in the freestyle 5K to take the lead for the boys with Foss Kerker, Minneapolis Southwest, second by only 5 seconds, and Xavier Mansfield, Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony, another 15 seconds back.
This was the top ranked trio, and it set the stage for a great classical race. Acton and Kerker formed a duo quickly in the afternoon pursuit, but Mansfield joined them by the time the group had hit the herringbone hill roughly half way into the 5K course. Fast skis helped Mansfield pull away on the long downhill ride to the finish, taking the victory by 9 seconds, with Acton second, Kerker following in third.
Ely celebrates (Photo: Joe Bianco)
The girls race provided some real surprises for many fans. Based on starting order, a number of favorites skied close together in morning freestyle race, moving up the field. However, the real story turned out to be a mirror of the section 7 championships, as Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's Anja Maijala skated to the top time, followed closely by Erin Bianco, Ely, and Anna Johnson, Mesabi East. And following the section 7 storyline, Maijala and Bianco paired up almost from the start in the afternoon classical pursuit before Bianco pulled away to win by 7 seconds. St. Paul Highland Park's Erin Moening caught a number of talented skiers to move from 7th to take third.
Some surprises in the top 10 included two St. Paul Highland Park stars, Harrison Pretel and Gabiel Pfeiffer, taking 6th and 10th. And Ely brought out two more stars in the top 20, with Emma Terwilliger and Ryne Prigge finishing 11th and 18th.
The team competition provided even more excitement, especially in the girls division. The Minneapolis Southwest boys took the lead after the morning races, and sailed through the classical pursuit to repeat as champions, winning by 16 points. Wayzata boys were solid in second place, with the St. Paul Highland Park boys moving from 5th place after the skate race to take third overall. The girls race was dominated by Ely, earning their first State Meet title in beating Robbinsdale-Armstrong by 19 points. Third place was an amazing three-way tie between Minneapolis Southwest, Stillwater, and Duluth East, with less than 30 seconds separating them. Minneapolis Southwest earned the third place finish by having the best time for its four top skiers. There was also a tie for sixth place between Forest Lake and Hopkins with Forest Lake winning it by 12 seconds.
Every year we crunch the numbers to dig up some interesting stats from the races. One of the most popular is the "Move" number -- the amount of change the skier makes during their classical race (pursuit start position to finish position). This year's big mover was Matthew Bourne, Mounds Park Academy, who passed an incredible 41 skiers during his classical pursuit! Almost as impressive, Stillwater's Carl Bohacek jumped from almost last, starting 124th, to finishing 86th, a move of 38 positions. For the girls, the classical rocker was Ely's Brooke Pasmick, passing 38, followed by Austyn Kimbrell, Minneapolis Washburn, moving up 35, Kaethe Schroeder, St. Cloud Tech, notching 33, and Rainy Baker, Robbinsdale-Armstong, taking down 32.
Big mover Matthew Bourne, Minnesota State Meet, February 16, 2017
In the top 20, Gabriel Pfeiffer, St. Paul Highland Park, moved from 23rd to 10th, and Mark Ousdigian, Mounds View, went from 27th to 15th. Siri Bohacek, Stillwater, had the best improvement in the top 20 finishers for the girls, going from 33rd to 17th, a remarkable 16 passes.
Minneapolis Southwest boys and Ely girls were certainly the cream of the crop, scoring well in all the stats we crank out. Besides the overall score, they both had the best freestyle and classical scores. Ely took the full sweep, by also having the best seven skiers in the field, while the Stillwater boys claimed that honor from Minneapolis Southwest. A new stat we included this year is the accumulated time of the teams top four skiers. The official team scoring assigns points based on the position the skier finished within the team competition (only scoring the section qualifying teams) which really emphasizes the importance of passing every possible skier. Interestingly enough, adding up the top four times results (much like a relay would be scored), produces some stark contrasts in the two systems. The top five scoring teams in the boys race also had the fastest times, in the same order. But for the girls, while Ely and Robbinsdale-Armstrong still had the fastest times, it is Forest Lake with the 3rd fastest time (versus their 6th place points finish). Minneapolis Southwest girls come in 4th in time, with Hopkins taking 5th (7th in points).
How bad were our State Meet Preview predictions? The boys individual predictions were pretty spot on. The top three turned out to be a trifecta, as they finished exactly as predicted. We also mentioned Anders Sonnesyn and Luc Golin as runners up, and they did finish 5th and 4th respectively. The girls race was blown out of the water with northern girls crushing it -- the only one we got close there was Erin Moening who took 3rd instead of the predicted 2nd. However, in the preview we did warn Anja Maijala and Moening were wildcards for a possible podium, as well as hinting that real snow conditions could benefit northern stars like Erin Bianco and Anna Johnson (3rd in skate). Mara McCollar was a featured as potential podium candidate, and she was not far off in 4th, with our third place choice, Kelly Koch taking 5th.
Xavier Mansfield, Minnesota State Meet, February 16, 2017
The team predictions were again better on the boys side than the girls. We correctly guessed Minneapolis Southwest and Wayzata would take first and second. St. Paul Highland Park boys strided up from 5th after skate to take 3rd in the end -- we did mention them as a podium contender. Obviously the powerful Ely girls squad was unranked, but we did start our preview of the teams by comparing their chances of winning their first title with the destiny of last year's Chicago Cubs. After that upset, things got better as Robbinsdale-Armstrong held on to second, and the Stillwater girls were tied for third, settling for fourth based on the tie-breaker. Minneapolis Southwest was listed as a contender for the podium, but we certainly did not give proper due to Duluth East squad who also tied for third.
That puts a wrap on the high school racing season, but make sure you check back in March, when most of these top stars will be competing against the best in the nation at Junior Nationals in Lake Placid, NY.
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